0

France and Germany Must Act in Iraq

Next week, President Bush, President Chirac, and Chancellor Schroeder will meet on the cliffs of Normandy to mark the 60th anniversary of the D-Day invasions that led to the liberation of Europe. They should also seize the moment to liberate themselves from the bitterness that has divided the Atlantic Alliance over the Iraq War, argue Pierre Lellouche and Christoph Bertram.

When the United States launched the war against Saddam Hussein's Iraq, France and Germany rightly warned that the invasion could well end up worsening instability in the Middle East and increase the threat of radical Islamic terror. But now that America and its coalition have proven themselves to be incapable of bringing stability to Iraq on their own, the French and German governments can no longer rest and smugly say, "I told you so," as the situation deteriorates even further. Both governments must now become seriously and fully engaged in what must now be a united Western effort.

Of course, it would be best for everyone - France and Germany included - if the current US-led coalition were to succeed and Iraq could turn into a pillar of Middle East stability and modernization. Yet, however desirable this outcome, it is no longer likely (if it ever was). Internal stability and economic recovery continue to be elusive, with the specter of civil war hovering ever closer. A divided Iraq at war with itself would be a disaster for the region, for America's international credibility and authority, and for transatlantic relations.

In an already fragile region, a major Arab country like Iraq would most likely prompt interventions by its nervous neighbors - of which there is no shortage - if it turns into a failed state. Instead of the rule of law, there would be the law of the mafia, of terrorist groups, and of tribal militias. Many of them are already in place. Instead of moving toward modernization and development, the region would be confirmed as a cockpit for conflict, a threat to itself and to the world beyond.